Ignatian Contemplation: Corpus Christi
Gospel Contemplation is a way of praying that St. Ignatius proposes quite frequently in his Spiritual Exercises. You are invited to use your imagination to enter the scene, to take part, to let the scene unfold. As Ignatius suggests, notice the people, listen to them, watch what they do [SE, 106, 107, 108]. Perhaps you may sense an invitation to be one of the individuals in the scene and engage in a conversation with one of them. You can do this on your own, or use the text below as a guide.
If this way of praying is new – simply relax and try to become engaged in the scene. Try not to worry about what you are “supposed to” be doing. If you find yourself distracted during your prayer, very gently bring yourself back to the scripture text or your imaginative contemplation.
If at any point during the guided contemplation your imagination comes to life in such a way that God invites to you stay with a particular moment, follow the invitation that you sense, rather than move on to where the written contemplation is going. In that case you might want to stop reading and continue on your own.
It may seem strange in the early post-Easter season to return to the Last Supper -- but we do so to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. Today we are reminded of God’s covenant with his people Israel, and our own participation in that covenant through the body and blood of Jesus. This passage from Mark has the least detail about the Last Supper of any of the Gospels. Jesus’ statements are brief and without elaboration. The lectionary skips Jesus’ interaction with Judas, and the text itself contains no washing of the feet.
Quiet your body and mind
- Choose a position where you can be relaxed but alert.
- Breathe deeply several times and let your body relax
- Breathe out any worries or stressful thoughts and put them in God’s hands
- Become aware of God’s presence here with you now, looking at you with love.
Ask for a grace
- Ask God for the grace of whatever you desire most right now. If you are not sure what to ask for, you might ask for the grace to be taken, blessed, broken, and given.
Read the scripture passage
Read the passage slowly, savoring the words and beginning to imagine the scene. Read it twice if that helps you to visualize it.
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’
When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
It’s the first day of Unleavened Bread -- there’s a feast to be had tonight! Jesus has sent you into Jerusalem with another disciple to make preparations. Notice what kind of day it is -- is it sunny or cloudy or windy or rainy? Are you warm or a bit chilly? The road to the city is bursting with pilgrims. What is it like to walk amidst the hustle and bustle? What do you see? What do you hear? What smells are in the air?
As you make your way, are you quiet with your thoughts or do you and the other disciple talk with each other? Do you discuss Jesus’ strange instructions?
Entering the city, you are met by a man carrying a jar of water, just as Jesus said. You follow him and make all the preparations for the meal, as Jesus instructed. What is it like for you to prepare for this feast you will share with Jesus?
Jesus and the other disciples arrive and you all begin eating. But Jesus pauses, takes a loaf of bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to all of you. He says, “Take, this is my body.” How does this moment affect you?
And then he takes the wine, gives thanks, shares it with all of you. As you drink, he says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’”
What does this mean to you? How do you react?
The evening comes to a close with a hymn. What do you sing?
As you walk to the Mount of Olives, Jesus chooses you to walk beside. Take the opportunity to share with Jesus your thoughts and feelings about everything that has happened in this prayer. Listen to his response to you.
When you are ready, close with a favorite prayer.
Review of Prayer
St. Ignatius recommends that we review our prayer. A written review has many advantages. It enables us to look back on our prayer experience, and to notice what happened. It allows us to be fully present to our experience of prayer. We do not write while we are praying. The review of prayer enables us not to judge ourselves or look for how well we are doing. It helps us to become more sensitive to how God is speaking to us in the here and now. It is also a precious record of our journey with God, which nourishes wholeness and integration.
Some questions to assist with your review:
What happened in your prayer?
What feelings did you experience?
During the prayer period, when did you feel encouraged?
When did you feel discouraged?
Did you receive the grace you asked for?
What did you receive?
Song Sparrow Serenade (Instrumental) by Chad Crouch is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License.